Contributor / Contributor

Jim Finks

Class of 1995



Enshrinement Speech

Career Highlights

Minnesota fans remember Jim Finks as the man who elevated the struggling expansion Vikings to championship status. Chicagoans recall him as the executive who restored the Bears' winning tradition.

New Orleans partisans salute Finks as the savior who brought the Saints their first winning season. Finks built perennial losers into playoff and Super Bowl teams in a stellar career as one of football's most respected executives.

He placed indelible stamps upon the Vikings, Bears and Saints. All three franchises flourished with players developed by Finks. Finks drafted nineteen of the Bears’ 22 starters in the Super Bowl XX win over New England. Finks was named the general manager of the Vikings in 1964.

Not a quick-fix artist, his moves were tailored for the long haul. His program began paying dividends four years later when Minnesota won its first of five divisional titles. The Vikings also advanced to the Super Bowl twice during Finks’ tenure in Minnesota that ended following the 1973 season. The Vikings leader was not afraid to make controversial decisions and he proved that in 1966 when coach Norm Van Brocklin and quarterback Fran Tarkenton feuded. Finks traded Tarkenton to the New York Giants. And when Van Brocklin resigned a few months later, Finks tapped an obscure CFL coach, Bud Grant, to lead the Vikings.

The Bears, who had not won a championship since 1963, hired Finks as general manager and executive vice-president just before the 1974 season. The Bears, under Finks’ leadership, were a playoff team again in 1977 and 1979. He resigned following the 1982 season.

In 1986, Finks signed on with the Saints. In his second season at the helm, the Saints became winners for the first time in their 19-season history. Then, in 1991, the team captured its first-ever division crown. A long-time member of the NFL’s competition committee, Finks also played quarterback and defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, 1949-1955.

1949 Pittsburgh
1950 Pittsburgh
1951 Pittsburgh
1952 Pittsburgh
1953 Pittsburgh
1954 Pittsburgh
1955 Pittsburgh
Career Total
Additional Career Statistics: Receiving: 1-17, 1 TD; Punt Returns: 1-20; Interceptions: 7-84, 1 TD; Punting: 4-156

Full Name: James Edward Finks

Birthdate: August 31, 1927

Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri

Died: May 8, 1994

High School: Salem (Ill.)

Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 28, 1995

Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: July 29, 1995

Enshrined posthumously. Represented by son, Jim Finks, Jr.

Presenter: Edward W. McCaskey, Chairman of the Board, Chicago Bears

Other Members of Class of 1995: Henry Jordan, Steve Largent, Lee Roy Selmon, Kellen Winslow

Jim Finks Enshrinement Speech 1995

Presenter: Ed McCaskey

Good Morning folks. Congratulations to these great athletes who today enter the Hall of Fame. And a special greeting to Maxine, David, Dan, Torn, Jim Finks Jr. and all the members of the Finks family.

Jim Fink spent forty-five years in the National Football League. One-time he told me about playing for the Steelers. In the game he had his jaw broke, of course he had it wired. Jim heard that Paul Brown had designed a face bar to protect Otto Graham. So, Jim went to see Paul and asked for one of the face bars. Paul said, for whom do you play? Jim said the Steelers. My face bars are for the Cleveland Browns. And he never gave him one. But Jim and Paul became great friends. Jim had penchant for giving people nicknames. And he always called Paul the, "wily mentor.”

Art Rooney was a great and dear friend of mine. During the latter years of his life I spent as much time as possible with him. One day I was loafing in his office in Pittsburgh. I said, Art that big picture of Jim Finks on the wall looks like he looking right at you. Art said Jimmy he was some guy. Might have been the best quarterback I ever saw. After seven years with the Steelers, Jim went on to amazing success with the Vikings, Bears, and the Saints. Deeply as important as his presence and service to the teams that employed him was his impact on the entire National Football League.

If an owner needed a coach, he might very well call Jim. If a head coach needed a line coach Jim’s phone might very well ring. He was admired at all levels throughout the league for his integrity, his ability, and his creed of, ''do the right thing.'' He was tough and fair and believed that building a football organization was the secret to success on the field. Each year the Chicago Bears invite the alumni home for dinner and a game. Those who can't come might write a letter as their most memorable experience as a Bear. Our fearless safety of yesteryear, Doug Flank wrote a letter with your permission I would like to read it now. I had just completed my third year as a starting free safety. Since I was drafted in the 12th round, my salary qualified me for low income housing. I was attempting to double my salary. After I submitted my initial offer to Jim Finks, he immediately countered with a fifty percent reduction in my increase. Intimidated by his position and negotiating ability I explained I would have to discuss the offer with my wife before I made a decision. After my response the room became very quiet. He stared into my eyes for what seemed an eternity. Then he said, ''Doug you go home and talk to your wife. I'll go home and talk to my wife. I hope she doesn't think I've offered you too much. ''

When Jim came to Chicago for the first year, he left his family in Minnesota. So that David could finish high school and, in the process, become an all-state halfback, Muggs Halas and I had dinner with him several times a week. And on Monday nights I always stayed in his apartment. I long admired and respected him, but during his time at Chicago I came to love him and his family. However, there was a strained period in our relationship because Virginia and I asked him to be President of the Bears. He said thank you but no thank you. He added that Mike McCaskey should be President of the Bears. And Mike never knew until this moment that Jim Finks picked him to run the Bear organization. After Jim left the Bears, we didn't talk much for a time. But when the fine and good man Tom Benson called me and said, ''Ed I’m interested in this fellow Jim Finks.'' I didn't hesitate to say if you hire Jim Finks you will have the best executive in the National Football League. Tom said, '' Yeah, but he wants to be president.'' I said, ''what's wrong with that Tom you will still be the owner.'' Now I don't know if I influenced Torn, but two days later Jim Finks was announced as President of the New Orleans Saints and what a great job he did there.

All my life I've lived on the periphery. At home, as a caddie in college, in the Army, in the music business and now in football. I've known many great men. Standing in their chosen professions, but nobody impacted my life as did Jim Finks. I've tried to emulate him and his credo '' do the right thing.''

The American poet Longfellow wrote wives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime and departing leave behind us footprints in the sands on time. I would suggest to you that Jim Finks' footprints, handprints, and heart prints are indelibly etched throughout the National Football League. And now, let me ask a favor of all of you. Tonight, when you hit your knees and ask God to please do the right thing. Ask him to take good care of Jim Finks. Ladies and gentlemen please greet, Jim Finks Jr.

Jim Finks Jr. on behalf of his father Jim Finks

Thanks Ed McCaskey and Virginia and all the McCaskey’s that we know, who h a v e been friends and supporters of our family over the years. How lucky we are to be in this business is something Jim Finks said quite often to his wife and his contemporaries during his forty-three years in professional football as a player and as an executive. He said this because he witnessed firsthand the steady growth and popularity of professional football over parts of six different decades and he recognized his good fortune for being part of it. Dad said how lucky we are to be in this business because he was almost destined not to last in the NFL. His second season as a defensive back with the Steelers he came up to make tackle in a game against the Colts and broke his neck.

They thought he would never be able to play pro football again. That he would leave Pittsburgh and return to Oklahoma and take a job as a high school football coach in Obart, Oklahoma. But to his good fortune he was told he could play again. The next season he was converted from defensive back to quarterback. But not everything was rosy in those days with the Steelers. As a young bride sitting in the stands at old Forbes field, mom would tell us a certain chant would rise up from the crowd when the breaks were going against the Steelers, '' Finks Stinks.'' It’s a true story, but they got over it ok. In 1952 things got better. The Steelers switched to the T formation in offense. And that year dad threw for 20 touchdown passes and over 2,000 yards in just twelve games and played in the Pro Bowl alongside the great Otto Graham. But it was when his playing career ended that his football education had just begun.

From Pittsburgh it as on to South Bend as the offensive backfield coach at the University of Notre Dame under Terry Brennan. The golden boy, Paul Hornung was there playing his way towards winning the Heisman trophy that season. Dad would always tell Paul that it was his coaching that helped him win the Heisman. Paul would say sure what about the rest of the offense we went 2 and 8 that season. From South Bend it was up to Calgary in the Canadian Football League. It was his seven years in Calgary where dad learned every aspect of running a pro football club. From the scouting to making trades, to conducting a draft, to the program and ticket sales, and getting along with the media. It was his seven years with the Calgary Stampeders. which laid the foundation for future success in the National Football League.

As a father of four boys, he was honest and loyal. But when we got out of hand, he could be tough. Right Dave? Whenever we had a problem or question, he always had the right answer. If it wasn't the answer, we wanted to hear it was still sound advice. He always attended the games we played as kids. Whether it be football or baseball or hockey. As a husband he was devoted to Maxine. They met at the University of Tulsa. And a marriage that lasted forty-three years spoke volumes about how they felt about each other. As an executive he had what you could call organizational tunnel vision. Always striving to have the best organization from top to bottom. He was an astute judge of people. He surrounded himself with the best people and he let them do their jobs. Whenever he received an award or any recognition, he's usually deflected the praise to those around him. If he were here today, I know he would do the same thing.

He was energetic with his time for family and friends. And of course, he had great sense of humor. Anybody who laughs in the National Football League for over forty years better have a sense of humor. A reporter asked him after a game about some questionable calls by the officials.'' You know Jim what about that crew, there were some pretty controversial calls that weren't there?'' His immediate reply was, ''I'm not al loved to comment on lousy officiating.'' And we both enjoyed reading the quote in the paper the next day. To come up what Jim Finks was all about, he kept these words written on a piece of paper in his wallet at all times. If we are ever unlucky enough to have it made. Then we will be spectators instead of participants in life. It’s the journey not the arrival that counts. Does the road wind up hill all the way? Yes, until the very end Jim Finks was known as a former Steeler, Viking, Bear, but it is no coincidence he left this world a Saint.

Let me thank Pete Elliott and everybody involved with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the great people of Canton Ohio. I want to thank the National Football League member clubs, players, owners, coaches, and especially the fans of the National Football League it’s an honor to be here. And today along with my family and friends I'm proud to represent my dad for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 1995 with two of the greatest receivers of all time, Steve Largent and Kellen Winslow and two of the greatest defenders of all time Lee Roy Selmon and the late Henry Jordan Sr. Thank you very much.